by Reuven Segal Between the library and the lake and next to the Merkaz, stands a large and impressive tree trunk.  At Ramah Wisconsin it is said that every moment and every place is an opportunity for Jewish education, and the project I took upon myself this summer was to try and think of this tree trunk as a symbol, as a place and expression of התחדשות יהודית/Jewish renewal.

I chose to design new branches for the tree which are made of iron and are similar to the tree’s own2 branches; these new branches are hung with wind chimes of varying sounds and melodies.  The nine branches of the tree symbolize the nine aidot at camp, each one creating its own unique niggun/melody.

Onto the trunk, I carved the symbols of the twelve tribes of Israel. During the summer I researched the various expressions in Jewish art, through the generations, which relate to the twelve tribes.  I chose the blessing given by Yaakov to each tribe as the appropriate symbol to represent each tribe.

In 1955 a wonderful Israeli artist by the name of George Hamori designed new stamps for the State of Israel depicting the twelve tribes.  These were the most widely used stamps in Israel and were also used to mail letters abroad. Many Israelis remember these stamps from our childhood, as I do, but the name of the artist was forgotten in the annals of Israeli culture and it is a real zchut, or privilege, to bring to light the artist and his creation which served as an inspiration and point of reference for my work.

At the highest spot on the trunk, close to the treetop that once was and is no more, I carved the symbol of Ramah, the burning bush which is not consumed.

I see Ramah camps as special places that express the ongoing effort to create a vibrant and relevant Judaism for hundreds of children and teens.  I believe that like the tribes of Israel and like the steadfast trunk at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, we are able to raise and educate a generation of Jewish youth who stand up tall, and will understand their role and mission in Tikkun Olam.

May we merit to fulfill the blessing:

“עץ חיים היא למחזיקים בה ותומכיה מאושר”

“It is a tree of life to those who take hold of it”

1With thanks to Jon Adam Ross (JAR) for his help and friendship, to Tom and Scott of the maintenance staff, to Scott Rosen, Lilach Schrag, Ross Meltzer and to the Nagarut staff – Alex and Ilan.